How to mix vocals for Rap and Hip hop in FL studio.

The Basic Hip-hop Vocal Preset

Plugins Placement

Mix Bus

  1. Autotune
  2. EQ
  3. De-Esser
  4. EQ
  5. Compressor
  6. EQ
  7. Compression

Autotune

  • Make sure this is the first or second plugin in the channel strip, as this is the most essential tool every modern Hip-hop vocal needs. 
  • Setting the speed, song key, adding/removing notes and playing the humanizer should be the main focus point when adjusting your vocals to your instrumental track.
  • As we all know, an autotune speed of 0 indicates the classic T-Pain effect 

EQ

  • A Dynamic EQ is supplied stock with all Daws, try not to get too overzealous with what plugin works the best, as you could end up over piling your computer's hard drive and create Daw latency. Instead, you should learn how a Dynamic Equalizer works.
  • Place a Dynamic EQ somewhere in the second or third placement in your mix bus channel strip.
  • Use this EQ to (subtract) or take away some of the high and low frequencies. 
  • Most high frequencies you need to remove are anything harsh sounding or above our natural perception of hearing, such as 18000 khz and above.
  • Low frequencies are typically anything below 200 hz but in the case of Hip-hop vocals, its industry standard to remove from 50-80hz but this is music, always trust what the song is making you feel when you hear it.
  • Removing these frequencies will allow for much cleaner vocal takes within the recording session, mixing and mastering stages.

De-Esser

  • A De-Esser is a plugin used to remove harsh sibilance that a voice creates when using words with heavy "Ss" and "Ts" attached to them.
  • Use this to tame all vocal sibilance and after effect plugin usage that enhance higher frequencies within the vocal take.

EQ

  • The Dynamic EQ can also be used again to attenuate any losses in higher frequencies from the De-Esser being active. 
  • By performing a frequency sweep in your EQ visualizer - going up and down the frequency chart until you find the harsh point - notch down any harsh frequencies poking through the mix by a few or more decibels to ensure clean vocal takes and mixes.

Compressor

  • By now you should have a clean sounding vocal but there's still an issue - your vocals aren't loud enough yet to sit in the mix properly.
  • All modern Rap Hip-hop vocals are using an 11-76 style compressor in their channel strip because it is vital in taking ordinary vocals, crushing them and turning them into the loud compressed vocals that we love to hear and voice to from our favorite artists.
  • Make sure to set the Attack to a slower speed and Release to a faster speed. A slow attack like 30ms will make the vocal sound more aggressive and emphasizes the consonants and clarity of the vocal, while a faster attack like 10ms will make the vocal sound smoother and further back so since we want the clear tonality and aggressiveness of our vocals to stand out, we go with this option first; leaving the second option for adjusting the final levels to sit in the mix properly with the beat.

EQ

  • A final use of the Dynamic EQ is for shaping out the vocal frequencies left unaccounted for such as the lows, low-mids, mids, high-mids. 
  • By taste and feel, cut the lows, boost the mids, notch around 3500hz, boost the highs around 7500hz and above.
  • Cut out or attenuate for any harsh or boxy sounding vocals by focusing near the 200-600 hz range.
  • The shape of your vocals matters and there are many VST plugins that offer features allowing you to cross reference the most famous and classic songs to see how they line up with yours in the mix.

Compressor

  • 2nd in command to the 11-76 for the 1-2 punch we use the LA-2A Leveling Amplifier Tube Style Compressor/Limiter. Using only a single gain stage and two knobs for peak and gain reduction is one of the simplest compressors to operate to current date. 
  • As stated, this tube compressor/limiter is used to level out the vocal to fit into the soundtrack mix. This should be used as your final step in a basic Hip-hop vocal preset.

 

Now that you have all the basic understandings of what plugins go into the mixing channel it’s important to note that there is no right answer for mixing music, “if it sounds good, it is good” - yes, that is a true statement, but we should always place ourselves in the right direction first - we need to see the GPS before driving. 
Whether you produce, record, mix yourself or other people, find your workflow! Experiment with different Daws if you think Fl Studio might be better than Ableton (wink wink). It’s all a preference to your workflow and what makes you create a more efficient project. 
You may fall down the rabbit-hole of experimenting with loads of different Vst plugins, we’ve all been there but have some fun! Learn what you do and don’t like as well as what works and what doesn’t. It’s all worth the investment.
As a producer or engineer your ears and body will often get fatigued just make sure to give yourself breaks, stand up and come back to your projects. A healthier and more rested engineer will produce better quality productions than a non-rested one. 
All of the mixing plugins stated above are (native) stock to any Daw that you may be using currently and are a great starting point for mixing practice. Take time to understand how these tools are used in order for you to maximize your potential as a producer, engineer, or recording artist. 
If you have any suggestions to what topics you would like Starboard Music Group to cover next, please leave us your comments at the bottom of this page.
Back to blog

Leave a comment